Another take on the disappearance of Brian Carrick – new podcast retells the mystery

On the evening of Dec. 20, 2002 in a small Illinois town near the Wisconsin border a 17-year-old boy went missing.Carrick Poster

To many this first sentence will spark a complicated web of details, names, courtroom testimony, rumors and alleged lies in the yet unsolved disappearance and presumed murder of Brian Carrick.

The story has been a part of my life since 2007 when I first sat down with Brian’s mother, Terry. Brian was one of her 14 children. She and her husband raised their large Catholic family in a white house that set across the street from Val’s grocery store. Many of the Carrick children had worked at Val’s at one time or another. Val’s is where her son Brian, 11th of her 14 children, was last seen alive.

Though his blood was found in and around a produce cooler at Val’s, her son’s body has never been found. Authorities say a fight over a drug debt led to the young man’s death.

Today, nearly 16 years later, there is no one serving prison time for Brian’s murder and lawyers are wrangling hoping to settle big dollar lawsuits.

The story has been the topic of many newspaper articles and TV news reports, as well as an hourlong episode of ABC’s 2020 entitled “Mystery on Johnsburg Road.”

And with each report of Brian’s story comes more confusion, a myriad of characters and perpetrators (depending on whose story you believe), but no definite answers. Stories change, memories fade, and still the family waits to learn the truth. The story has divided the small town of Johnsburg, in some cases pitting local families against each other.

Well yet another storyteller is investigating Brian’s case.

Just last week a 10-part podcast entitled “Framed” was released on iTunes. The producers gathered details from police reports, court testimony and other sources and created the podcast in the hopes of telling the story in a fair and complete way.

They tell the story by using voice actors to recreate actual moments in police interrogation rooms and courtrooms.

They ask the listener to keep close attention to detail and to consider all the evidence before deciding who to believe.

I admit when I first learned about the existence of this podcast I was skeptical about its purpose. But as I listen I am beginning to feel the producers are genuine and striving to tell the story without leaning the listener one way or another.

Knowing the story as well as I think I do I was surprised by a couple details I heard in the podcast. I do not feel the producers are trying to manipulate or sway me and I appreciate that.

I won’t rehash the confusing details of the crime and its aftermath here as many of you reading this know much of what I have written about Brian and all the others whose lives have been made so public. I do encourage you to reread past stories here on my blog, but I also encourage you to listen to Framed.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/framed-an-investigative-story/id1422906504?mt=2

I do hope that this new approach brings about something positive for the family of Brian Carrick. Sadly, his parents have each died, but I can’t help but believe they are with their son and they now know the truth.

Please leave a comment and review of the podcast here.

Shane Lamb: key witness in 2002 disappearance gets 20 years for stealing guns

Shane Lamb — a key witness in the infamous 2002 disappearance and presumed murder of a Johnsburg teenager — told a McHenry County judge today that when he is out of prison in his latest case he wants “to come out a better man.”

Lamb, 30, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for stealing a safe from the home of a friend last April.

In January, he pleaded guilty to aggravated possession of a stolen firearm, in exchange prosecutors dropped three remaining charges.

Lamb admitted that he stole a safe from the McHenry townhouse of John Farenzena.

Farenzena testified Thursday that he had known Lamb for about 18 years and that he was a friend to Lamb when no one else was. Then he went on vacation and when he returned home found his 600-pound safe had been stolen. Witnesses identified Lamb in a police lineup as the thief, authorities said.

The safe contained 12 firearms, 10,000 rounds of ammunition, silver, a watch, 1/2 carat diamond and memorabilia. Police say that three of the 12 guns have been recovered as have some memorabilia. Prosecutors said they have knowledge of the guns being used in crimes in Chicago and Elk Grove Village. They fear what other crimes will be committed with the nine remaining guns unaccounted for.

Lamb has a lengthy criminal history that includes prison time for aggravated battery and drugs. However, he is best known as a key witness who testified against Mario Casciaro in two murder trials. His testimony landed Casciaro in prison in 2013 for the murder of Brian Carrick, 17. Carrick was last seen alive in Casciaro’s family grocery store in Johnsburg on Dec. 20, 2002. Lamb testified in those trials that at Casciaro’s direction he delivered what might have been a fatal punch to Carrick to collect on a $500 drug debt the night he disappeared. Carrick’s body has never been found.

Lamb has since recanted his story and Casciaro is appealing his conviction.

In court today there was no mention of the Casciaro case or Carrick.

Instead, Lamb apologized to Farenzena.

He told McHenry County Judge Sharon Prather that “I have been in and out of prison my whole life.” He said while he had a mentally ill mother, his father “tried his hardest” to raise him and his three brothers.

Lamb, recently diagnosed with bipolar, admitted that he has often turned to drugs and alcohol to deal with pain, especially when his son died of sudden infant death syndrome at just 45 days old and when his older brother committed suicide.

He said he would seek treatment for alcohol and drugs while in prison.

Lamb’s father, Dan Sinkovitz said his son was a good boy until age 14 when he was involved in an attempted robbery with another juvenile. In the robbery a woman was shot and injured. The other juvenile was sent to a rehabilitation center in Colorado, while his son served hard time in a St. Charles juvenile detention center, he said.

“It was a terrible place,” Sinkovitz said.

He said his son was incarcerated with older boys and that guards and other inmates beat him up regularly.

“He was there 3 1/2 years,” Sinkovitz said. “Fighting was a way of life. When he came out he was hardened.”

In asking for a 12 year sentence, Lamb’s attorney Paul De Luca said his client deserves a chance at rehabilitation and a life after prison.

“He is aware that if he commits another crime he faces life in prison,” De Luca said.
“He’s not just this raging maniac out here.”

De Luca noted that Lamb has a girlfriend waiting for him who he wants to build a life with and an ailing father who needs his help. He said Lamb is remorseful for steeling from Farenzena and he also worries about the guns being out on the street.

Calling Lamb “vile” and his defense “nonsense” and “a lot of excuses,” Assistant State’s Attorney Robert Zalud rebuked any sentimental explanation of Lamb’s criminal history.

“Shane Lamb is being portrayed as a victim of the system … (somehow) we got it wrong … he is a victim,” Zalud said. “His dad said he helped him, his parents helped him, he has had support. How long do we have to pay until he learns how to grow up?”

Zalud said anytime Lamb is not in prison he is just playing “a waiting game for his next victim.”

“Shane Lamb is in a free fall,” Zalud said. “There is no bottom for this guy. He is going to continue to commit more crimes. He is incredibly selfish and he is incredibly violent.”

Prather acknowledged that Lamb had a rough life, but said it is his own fault that he continues to get into trouble.

“Your pain doesn’t justify you inflicting pain on others,” Prather said. “Everybody makes mistakes … this is going to be your fourth trip to (prison). If you don’t change your life … you will spend your life in prison or die.”

Lamb listened intently and nodded his head as Prather spoke directly to him.

“The court does not take pleasure in handing down heavy sentences, but you brought this on yourself,” Prather said.

Lamb also must pay $15,000 to Farenzena for restitution. He will receive one year’s credit for time served since his arrest last April. He is required to serve 50 percent of the sentence, so he could be out of prison in nine years.

Judge denies change of venue & special prosecutor for Shane Lamb – Trial set to begin Jan. 12

Shane Lamb -best known in McHenry County for providing testimony in a murder trial that landed a Fox Lake man in prison for 26 years – recently lost an attempt to have a special prosecutor try his latest felony when it goes to trial in January.

Lamb, also lost motions for a change of venue and the suppression of evidence that led to his arrest in April. He has been charged with residential burglary, possession of stolen firearms and being an “armed habitual criminal.” He is accused of stealing a safe containing guns and ammunition from the McHenry home of a friend.

His attorney Paul DeLuca argued that because Lamb has a long and sorted history with McHenry County State’s Attorney’s office and with Michael Combs, the chief of the county’s criminal division, he would not receive a fair trial.

Combs, whom DeLuca also subpoenaed to take the stand at the hearing which the judge denied, made a deal with Lamb in 2010 to tell a story that led to the conviction of Mario Casciaro, 31, in the 2002 disappearance and presumed death of Brian Carrick, 17. In exchange for his testimony, Lamb would never face charges in the case.

All three men worked at Val’s Foods, the Casciaro family grocery store, together and allegedly were selling drugs. Carrick, Lamb testified in two trials, was killed over a $500 drug debt he owed Casciaro. Carrick’s body was never found. He said, at Casciaro’s direction he argued with Carrick over the money. He then became angry and punched the boy and may have accidentally killed him inside a produce cooler at the grocery store. Casciaro, Lamb testified, told him he would take care of the body. Carrick’s body has never been found.

But in August Lamb, while sitting in jail awaiting trial for the unrelated theft case, recanted his testimony and said that Combs had coached him on what to tell jurors.

Combs has steadfastly denied any and all accusations made by Lamb.

DeLuca said because of this history with Combs and the state’s attorney’s office, Lamb would not be treated fairly in his upcoming trial.

He said although Combs would not be directly trying the case, attorneys in his office of whom he has control over, would be.

DeLuca motioned to call Combs as a witness during the hearing to ask him about his history with Lamb, but the judge denied that motion saying, having presided over both of Casciaro’s trials – the first ending in a mistrial in 2012 and the second resulting in his conviction in 2013 – she already knows all the details.

DeLuca wanted to ask Combs, given his history with Lamb, a five-time felon who never faced murder charges in the Carrick case, was he “directing his prosecutors in any way to seek the maximum sentence.”

“The defense has the right to challenge (Combs),” DeLuca said.

DeLuca said he has the right to call Combs to ask such questions and ask that he be removed from the case “if there is even an appearance of impropriety.”

He said given Lamb’s recantation in the Casciaro case, accusations against Combs and a recent incident in the courtroom when Lamb called Combs a “bully” there is “personal animus” against Lamb and “certainly an interest now to punish him more severely.”

Assistant State’s Attorney John Gibbons responded by saying that neither Lamb’s criminal history nor his involvement in Casciaro’s case have anything to do with his current situation and how the McHenry County prosecutors will handle it.

Lamb, he said, is the one with “personal animus” toward the prosecutors’ office.

He also is the one who committed a crime for which there is a range of penalties that he will now face, which have nothing to do with his history.

“There is no connection between (Carrick) murder and what he did with our office,” Gibbons said. “All issues and beliefs he has are based on things he has done himself. He chose it himself, he cannot prosecutor shop because he feels we are bullying him.”

To which Prather agreed stating this scenario does not meet certain criteria warranting a special prosecutor.

“This is a case about Shane Lamb,” Prather said. “The Casciaro case has nothing to do with this case. You cannot create cause based on your own actions. … Mr. Lamb has created any alleged (conflict) and he can’t create that conflict and then come here and complain.”

In his motion for change of venue, DeLuca noted more than 100 local newspaper articles and editorials written about Lamb and his long criminal history. He said “it would be a situation” in which he could not get a fair jury.

Assistant State’s Attorney Robert Zalud countered that it is more about Lamb’s own “ego” in believing that so many people are even aware of him.

Though he may be well known in the justice system, it does not mean he is as well known by the local jury pool, Zalud said.

“I think he will be shocked how many (people) don’t know or care about him, or forgot about him,” Zalud said.

Prather said that jurors will have to make a commitment to set aside what they may know and denied the motion for change of venue. However, she said she will reconsider the motion during jury selection if there appears to be an issue at the time of jury selection.

Prather also denied a motion to suppress evidence. DeLuca asked that the lineup in which he was identified by a neighbor be quashed. He said that the neighbor had been shown the same photo by the alleged victim prior to the police showing it to her in a lineup in which she identified Lamb as one who stole the safe.

A hearing has been set for Jan. 7 when DeLuca plans to argue motions to drop two counts of the indictment. He is expected to argue the state drop a class X charge of unlawful possession of weapons by a felon. The charge states that as a convicted felon he was in possession of a machine gun that was inside the safe he is alleged to have stolen. DeLuca states that there never was a machine gun inside the safe. He also will argue to dismiss a charge of “armed habitual criminal” because, DeLuca said, Lamb has never been convicted of a “forceable felony.”

Lamb’s father Dan Sinkovitz of Lake Bluff was present at the hearing.
He said his son has been treated unfairly by McHenry County prosecutors for years dating back to his first felony conviction of attempted murder when Lamb was just 14.

In that case Lamb was with another minor who shot at a woman in a local bakery. Though she lived, the boys were punished. One boy went off to a private treatment facility while Lamb when to a tough juvenile detention center in Illinois, he said.

His father believes that while the other boy went to a facility where he was rehabilitated, his son was sentenced to an institution where he was abused and beaten by tough street gang members.

Instead of rehabilitation, his son was hardened.

Sinkovitz said he tried to be there for his son, and help him get on the right path, but it seems, trouble always seemed to find him.

He said he is not surprised that the judge denied his son’s motions.

“It’s happened all along the way why shouldn’t it happen again,” he said.

Lamb’s January 12 trial is still set to go as planned.

Casciaro has maintained that he has no knowledge of what happened to Carrick and has pointed the finger at another Johnsburg man who died in 2012.

His case is still on appeal.

Mario Casciaro denied new trial, facing 20 to 60 years in prison

A McHenry County judge on Tuesday denied Mario Casciaro – what would have been his third murder trial, – in the murder of a coworker last seen alive on the evening of Dec. 20, 2002.

She also denied his motion to toss out the jury’s guilty conviction all together and set his sentencing date for Nov. 14. He faces 20 to 60 year in prison.

 

“I’m devastated, it’s not fair,” said his mother, Maria, outside the courtroom after McHenry County Circuit Court Judge Sharon Prather swiftly gave her decision and handed attorneys a 20-page document detailing her decision.

 

 

Casciaro, 30, who has been held in custody since being found guilty of first-degree murder with intimidation in April shook his head from side to side in apparent disbelief at his fate as he was escorted back into custody by McHenry County Sheriff’s officers.

 

Casciaro was found guilty of first degree murder with intimidation in the disappearance and presumed murder of Brian Carrick, 17. Carrick’s blood was found in and around a produce cooler Val’s Grocery Store in Johnsburg where he worked as a stock boy with Casciaro. Casciaro’s family were part owners of the store at the time.

 

During the trial witnesses said Carrick owed Casciaro a $500 debt in drug dealing  money.

 

Shane Lamb, who also worked at the grocery store and sold pot for Casciaro, testified in both murder trials for the prosecution against Casciaro.

 

The first murder trial ended in a hung jury last year.

 

Lamb testified said that Casciaro told him to come to the store to “talk” to Carrick to help collect his money. Lamb, who was given immunity in the case in exchange for his testimony, said while confronting Carrick he became angry and punched him.

 

Lamb said Carrick fell backward to the ground, inside the cooler, unconscious, he then left the store, not knowing what had happened to Carrick’s body.

 

Lamb, nor anyone else at the store that evening, nor his family or friends, has ever seen Carrick again.

 

His body has never been found.

 

Defense attorney Brian Telander argued that Casciaro should not have been found guilty of intimidation because he only told Lamb to “talk” to Carrick.

 

 

In her written ruling, which denied motions to throw out the guilty verdict, as well as, denied a motion for a new trial, Prather wrote “Under the facts of this case the court concludes that there was sufficient evidence from which the jury could infer that defenant  and Shane Lamb intended to use whatever force necessary to intimidate Brian Carrick into paying the money he owed ….. .”

 

 

She also wrote that “There was no other reason for the defendant to call Lamb back to Val’s other than to intimidate Carrick and act as the defendant’s muscle.”

 

Telander also argued that several mistakes had been made during the trial, including being cut off during closing arguments.

 

To which Prather cited case law that says “Presiding judge must be and is given great latitude in controlling the duration and limiting the scope of closing summations. He may limit counsel to a reasonable time and may terminate argument when continuation would be repetitive or redundant.”

 

“In 35 years of practice, I’ve never seen closing arguments cut off by a judge in murder case, ever,” Telander said.

 

 

Telander said after sentencing, he along with Kathleen Zellner, a high-profile defense lawyer from Chicago, will take the case to the appellate courts for an appeal.

 

“I’m extremely confident in a successful appeal,” Telander said. “I have never seen a case that has had this many legitimate issues.”

 

Michael Combs, chief of the criminal division, said he was “not surprised” by the judge’s ruling.

 

“I was confident we were gonna prevail,” Combs said. “The law was on our side. I’m sick and tired of his family acting like he was railroaded, that we were making stuff up….It’s a bunch of nonsense.”

 

Brian’s dad William Carrick left the courtroom without comment.